Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia
Court Finds That Mandatory Segregation On Public Motor Carriers Traveling Between States Violates Commerce Clause
As Hastie and Marshall argued, the Court had, before Plessy, used the Commerce Clause to strike down state mandated segregation. In Hall v. DeCuir (1878), a Louisiana statute requiring racial segregation on interstate common carriers was struck down as imposing an impermissible burden on interstate commerce. Now, writing for the Court, Justice Reed followed the same logic in overturning the Virginia law:
This statute is attacked on the ground that it imposes undue burdens on interstate commerce . . . Burdens upon commerce are those actions of a state which directly `impair the usefulness of its facilities for such traffic.' [Quoting Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois (1896)] That impairment, we think, may arise from other causes than costs or delays. A burden may arise from a state statute which requires interstate passengers to order their movement on the vehicle in accordance with local rather than national requirements.In other words, forcing passengers to reconfigure themselves every time they crossed state lines was unconstitutional.
Morgan effectively overruled Louisiana, New Orleans & Texas Railway Co. v. Mississippi (1890), in which the Court had upheld a state law virtually identical to the one struck down several years earlier on Commerce Clause grounds in Hall v. DeCuir (1878). Although segregation on buses traveling in the South still occurred after Morgan, this decision made it clear that it was only a matter of time before such practices would be outlawed everywhere.
Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia - Significance, Court Finds That Mandatory Segregation On Public Motor Carriers Traveling Between States Violates Commerce Clause